Publishing a book almost invariably will lead to criticism, as the theologically liberal, emergent church leader of Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell experienced after releasing a promo video for his soon-to-be-released work, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person, in which he allegedly argues for universalism, the traditionally frowned-upon belief that all people–from murderers to regular Joe’s–will ultimately attain heaven, even apart from a belief in Jesus.
A recent CNN blog post highlights this past weekend’s theologically and technologically incendiary debate. After releasing the promotional video, opposing tweets and blogs abounded, one of which by Justin Taylor on The Gospel Coalition site was hit up by nearly 250,000 readers. Taylor asserts that “This isn’t a peripheral academic debate. What Rob Bell is talking about gets to the heart of Christianity.”
Quizzical statements in Bell’s video like, “Gandhi’s in hell? He is?” ushered in the attention of Bishop Carlton Pearson, whose denomination expelled him as a heretic in 2004 after he promoted the no-hell-all-will-be-saved doctrine. “I thought my people loved me and would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me, but they didn’t,” he said to CNN.
Bell will not comment until his book hits shelves.
A titillating academic debate is always appealing, even more so when one drops the religion card in an already skeptical society. For the mainstream news audience, this dispute is highly newsworthy. Not only would it interest them, but it’s a popular event. Hundreds of thousands of engaged onlookers now await for Bell’s book release, as well as any ensuing theological broadsides.